Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson is remaining coy about his plans for teen sensation Sam Walker in Saturday’s elimination final against Gold Coast but he makes no secret about the role of enforcer Victor Radley.
The star forward returns after his latest suspension – a three-match ban for dangerous contact on Brisbane halfback Albert Kelly – and Robinson said he would be a key player in the Roosters' finals campaign, along with prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and second-rower Angus Crichton.
“I think we have shown that we can play without him but we are a better team with him,“ Robinson said.
“He is a link man between many positions. He is a front-rower and he is a halfback, and he mixes those roles so he is quite rare in the way he goes about playing the game. We just want him to consistently play that game.
“He is a great talker and he doesn’t have an off switch on or off the park, he will keep playing and his ability to hurt is high on the field so he is a key link man for the way we play.”
Roosters v Titans - Elimination Final
Waerea-Hargreaves also returns after recovering from a leg injury, while Crichton played in last weekend’s defeat of Canberra following a three-match suspension, so despite their well-documented injury toll this season the Roosters will field a virtual full-strength forward pack.
“Our mantra has also been that it doesn’t matter, there was always going to be 17 guys and we were going to attack the game, but we want guys on field who have been in this position before and adding those guys is vital,” Robinson said.
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“Getting them back together and getting them hunting as a pack is important for us.”
However, it is less clear how Robinson plans to use Walker after the rookie halfback saw just five minutes of action against the Raiders.
Walker has again been named on the interchange bench, with Lachlan Lam to partner Drew Hutchison in the halves, and Robinson said they would all play a role.
“We have obviously had some shifts and changes in those positions over the last couple of years and now we have got a young crew I feel like the shared responsibility is really key whilst trying to develop them into game-changers,” Robinsons said.
“Instead of just saying we have got two halves and we are going to play that the whole game, how do I get three guys sharing the load so that has been the focus.
“I really like the physicality of Lachy when he plays. I like the way he goes about the game, he is an intelligent guy, he has been around footy his whole life and he knows the game.
Who will you meet in the grand final?
“He has been working his way through our system, he has been an Australian schoolboys [representative] and top of the league in his position for a long time.
“I think you know Sam is going to be our long-term half there, I don’t think we have hidden from that fact, but in the moment right now I feel like that is the way for us to go with Drew, Lachy and Sam all playing their role and nailing their role.”
Gold Coast coach Justin Holbrook said the Roosters had proven throughout the season that no matter who they lost to injury, other players stepped up and got the team into fifth place.
The Titans snatched eighth spot after Canberra and Cronulla lost last weekend, and they then beat the Warriors 44-0, but Holbrook insisted his team wasn't just making up the numbers.
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"We have just got to be better than the Roosters for 80 minutes, that is what it comes down to now and it is a great position for us to be in," Holbrook said. "I think we have been improving over the last month."
Star recruit David Fifita will be a key player for the Titans and Holbrook said the strike back-rower didn't get the credit he deserves for his performances this season.
"He has finished the regular season as the top forward try-scorer, the third-highest [forward] in the history of the game, the most tackle breaks and he was our top try-scorer," Holbrook said.
"He can focus on other things in his game but he is a big part of our side and like all the players he has bought in well and that is why we are still alive."
Holbrook said a decision on the future of Tyrone Peachey, Ash Taylor and Mitch Rein, who are off contract at the end of the season, had been put on hold until after the finals.
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